PM Zaev Expects Gruevski to be Extradited to Serve Jail Time in Macedonia

According to PM Zoran Zaev, there are no dilemmas that former PM Nikola is in Budapest. “We expect him to be extradited so that he serves jail time here,” he said on Friday, publicly asking whether the former VMRO-DPMNE leader had voluntarily left Macedonia or had been kidnapped. The PM stated that he expected answers from both Gruevski and Hungary. Zaev considers that Gruevski’s escape represents admission of guilt over the acts he’s charged with and convicted of. A double investigation has been opened into the case, that is, one within the frameworks of the Prosecutor’s Office and another by the police. “Once the investigation is over, the Interior Ministry will announce all details,” the PM underlined. The EU, too, will be informed. Macedonia expects cooperation from member-states, rejection of the asylum request and, primarily, respect for the rule of law. Zaev added that the Albanian and Montenegrin authorities had submitted the information about Gruevski’s crossing on their territory. Based on that, it’s clear that the former PM escaped with a Hungarian diplomatic vehicle, according to the PM.  The same day, the Hungarian PM’s Office issued another statement regarding the situation. “In contrast to the assumptions and pieces of false new that have been published in the press, neither the Hungarian State nor the Hungarian authorities helped Nikola Gruevski leave Macedonia. Nikola Gruevski indicated his intention to submit a request for asylum at one of Hungary’s foreign representations. For security reasons, the Hungarian authorities made it possible for the submission of the request and the hearing of Nikola Gruevski, who was Macedonia’s Prime Minister for ten years, to take place at the headquarters of the Immigration and Asylum Office in Budapest. The Immigration and Asylum Office is conducting the asylum process in accordance with Hungarian law and in harmony with international law. Also in accordance with both Hungarian legal regulations and international practice, until the procedure is completed the Hungarian authorities are not at liberty to provide further information with relation to the asylum procedure. We underline, however, that Nikola Gruevski is in Hungary legally in accordance with the legal stipulations concerning asylum procedures,” it pointed out. Also on Friday, the Macedonian authorities said the use of the word “kidnapped” was with an ironic connotation and aimed to obtain a stand from Budapest about the role of Hungarian embassies in the case. VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM continued to trade accusations over the situation, while FM Nikola Dimitrov declined to answer a question about what the two countries’ diplomatic relations would be after the information about the direct involvement of Hungarian diplomats in Gruevski’s transit from Albania to Hungary, via Montenegro. The EU’s Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said on Twitter that a strong rule of law “is one of the fundamental criteria of EU accession.” As he added, after years of backsliding, Macedonia is making good progress in that area, including criminal law. According to Hahn, all EU members and Western Balkans neighbours should support that process. The Commissioner also pointed out: “This is a matter of Europe’s credibility!” During a phone conversation with his Hungarian counterpart, Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski was told that Gruevski was in Hungary. MEP Reinhard Buetikofer said history had stated its verdict about Gruevski. “He is on the losing side of history, a supporter of nationalism, chauvinism and corruption,” the MEP pointed out.